Everybody knows about EA’s past struggles and scandals with the loot boxes in their games. Nearly all of EA’s major franchises include loot boxes in some form whether it’s their annual FIFA and Madden Games or their first person shooter games like the battlefield series. One of EA’s games that caught the most attention for having loot boxes is the infamous Star Wars Battlefront 2.
If you are unfamiliar with the controversy behind Star Wars BattleFront 2, Gamespot wrote a summary of the drama that unfolded back in 2017. In short, during EA’s beta of Star Wars BattleFront 2 players discovered that the loot boxes EA had put in the game made the game very unbalanced and basically made the game pay-to-win. Players took to the internet and complaining about how the game was designed to pressure players into paying to advance at a reasonable rate in the game.
EA attempted to defend their decisions centered around the loot boxes on Reddit but ended up breaking a record for the most downvoted comment in Reddit history. According to the WSJ Fearing losing profitability in one of their biggest franchises Disney’s chairman of consumer products sent a message to EA and expressing his concerns about how the player outrage could affect the Star Wars brand. Shortly before the games official launch EA decided to temporary remove loot boxes fearing it lootboxes would negatively affect their sales going into the holiday season. Eventually after the controversy had calmed down they put loot boxes back into the game but with only cosmetic items that could affect how your characters looked.
Almost a year after the Star Wars Battlefront 2 loot box scandal EA is making headlines again due to the company being under criminal investigation in Belgium due to FIFA’s loot boxes according to EuroGamer. Back in April of this year Belgium declared that some loot boxes are considered gambling are are also illegal. After this decision Blizzard, Valve and 2K Games all made actions to remove or modify their loot box systems in the Belgium versions of their games. EA decided to do nothing following Belgium’s decision and now if Belgium decides to prosecute the case will go to court.
The reasoning behind Belgium’s stricter loot box policies is because Belgium’s gaming commission conducted an investigation into games with loot boxes in video games to see if they fall under Belgium’s definition of gambling. According to a Belgium press release the results of the investigation were that Belgium’s gaming commission considered loot boxes to be a game of chance because of the fact that players didn’t know which items a box may contain when purchasing the loot box. Belgium is also concerned about loot boxes due to the fact that a lot of children play these games and are vulnerable to gambling at an early age. Belgium also states that the only options for games with loot boxes are to remove them entirely from the Belgium version of the game or modify them to display the contents of the box and the chance of how often each player has at receiving an item. The developers would also have to state that loot boxes are a form of gambling in the game if they choose to modify it.
Some consequences that EA might possibly have to face for refusing to modify their loot box system includes a $800,000 fine for violating Belgium’s gaming commissions’ rules or face 5 years in prison for whoever was involved in the decision of implementing loot boxes into the game. On top of that since the gambling commission also state that minors are involved the fines have the possibility of doubling making EA to possibly pay over one million dollars or 10 years of jail time.
Overall this probably isn’t more of a bump in the road for EA they have already made public the odds of the “card packs” in their FIFA games. They might have done this in attempts to avoid a court case in Belgium all together but even if it goes to court no one is going to go to jail over these loot boxes. EA would most likely just pay the fine if it ever comes done to that. Thanks to EA some countries are asking themselves “Are loot boxes a form of gambling?”